Doubt, Faith, and the Teachings of God
John 20:19-31 (Acts 5:29-42, 1 Peter 1:3-9)
Easter 2 – Series A
John 20:19-31 (ESV)
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said,“Peace be with you.”
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
We interrupt the continuous coverage of the doom and gloom surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever extended Safer At Home orders here in Wisconsin and indeed throughout most of the country to bring us back to something more normal, and ultimately far more important. The Word of God given to us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Specifically, today we will look closely at what God tells us through the events recorded by the Apostle John after Jesus resurrection from the dead.
Let’s dive in and start unpacking. “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews.” Right away the stage is set by a description of the fallen human condition. The disciples of Jesus had locked themselves away out of fear. They were self made prisoners. Shackled as securely by their fear as any metal could do. And what is the source of all fear? It is that we are no longer in the perfect relationship with God that we were created to be in. We no longer trust in Him for all things. We no longer rely on Him to see us through. We no longer turn to Him, expecting every good and gracious gift possible. Thus, we are afraid of what has and might happen, because we know deep down what complete failures we are as we taint everything we touch with our sin. So, we cower, and hide, and worry, and doubt. A cycle that leads us to fear even more, which leads to more cowering and hiding, and worrying, and doubting. See the mess we are in? The unending, hopeless situation that our sin causes us?
Into that very situation God breaks in with the realities of His love for us. The second person of the Trinity is incarnate and born. He lives among us as the man, Jesus, who is also fully God and the promised Messiah, hence He is the Christ, the anointed one. Breaking into this sin corrupted world of fear and doubt, Jesus lives as we are supposed to live, in perfect obedience of God the Father, always trusting, never doubting, always receiving and following the perfect and gracious Word of God. Breaking into this sin corrupted world of doubt and rebellion, Jesus dies our death for us, bearing the full cost of all sins to His cross, being forsaken by God so that we can have life. Having died our death, Jesus was buried in our tomb, but He didn’t stay there for long. Three short days later He rose and the realities of the resurrection are seen as the text says. “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
What is this peace that Jesus is giving? What is it source? Well, it is the peace of sins forgiven, purchased by Jesus on the cross with His own blood. It is the peace of knowing that no matter what is happening here in this world, our sins are paid for, our relationship with our creator has been restored by Jesus. In that knowledge we find peace because we know that where there is forgiveness there is life and salvation, no matter what we might be seeing in the here and now.
But our sinful nature will not believe such farfetched notions. A man who was beaten within an inch of his life, had his back flayed open by the whips, hung on a cross for several hours, breathed His last breath, and then had his blood drained through a spear hole in His side for good measure is most certainly dead. The body is in the tomb and that is that. Not even Elijah or Jesus could raise someone who is that dead back to life. The mindset of sin that causes the doubts, the lack of trust, the rejection of God and His Word that causes us to fear. Is it any wonder than that we need help to believe? “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And here we see the source of the help. The Holy Spirit, who is given by the crucified and risen Lord Jesus works on the blindness of our sin hardened hearts to give us the eyes of faith which see the truth in all that Jesus has said and done no matter how farfetched it may seem to the eyes of human logic and reason.
But the Holy Spirit does not operate in a vacuum, not because He can’t, but because He has not promised to do so. Instead He has promised to work through tangible means to relieve our doubts and take away our fears. The means of grace that we see as God’s Holy Word written in the Bible and proclaimed by His called servants and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion, that we see at the font, altar, and table. And so that we know where those means are being given according to Christ’s command and institution; so that we know beyond a doubt that here, Jesus is present for you and your salvation, Christ in His love and mercy gave to us the Office of the Ministry with the authority to proclaim God’s law of condemnation of sins and His Gospel of sins forgiven through the blood of Christ Jesus shed upon the cross. “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.””
And the blessed result of God’s called servants carrying out faithfully the duties of the Office of the Ministry? The ability to gather in the place that our Savior, the Lord Jesus has promised to be for you and hear the most wonderful Words ever spoken. “Peace be with you.” Heard at the beginning of the Divine Service with God’s holy name spoken – In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – reminding us of Who has gathered us together and in Whose presence we have entered. Heard again after we have opened our hearts to God in the confession of our sins – As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – giving us the great gift of life and salvation. Heard again after the Word of God is proclaimed and explained in the center of the Service – The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord to life everlasting – assuring us that the Word of God does not ever return empty, but always accomplishes the purpose He sent it out for. Heard once again at the second high point of the service after the table has been prepared and the invitation extended to partake of the sacrificial meal of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world – The peace of the lord be with you always – giving to us the assurance that we are being fed not only with the Word, but also with the very Body and Blood of Christ, nourishing, strengthening, and healing our sin sick souls with the eternal medicine of Christ’s forgiveness. We then hear the peace of God one last time – the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor, and give you peace – equipping us to go into the world with the joyful news of sins forgiven and the peace of knowing that eternal life awaits in heaven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.
This brings us to the pattern of gathering in the Lord’s name to receive His gifts as he desires to give them. The text says, “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”” and then “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”” The first day of the week is Sunday. And when you keep in mind that the Jewish way of counting days included the day you were on, “eight days later” is the following Sunday. So we see the pattern of Jesus coming to His adopted children every Sunday to give them what they need, the peace of God given by the forgiveness of sins for your salvation. Of course the freedom of the Gospel tells us that is doesn’t necessarily have to be only on Sunday that we gather into Christ’s presence to receive the peace He desires to give to us through His Word and in His sacraments. The day of the week isn’t the important part, gathering regularly in Christ’s presence is important for our eternal health and well being. And while for a little while this gathering is limited in number due to the virus, we are still able to gather each Lord’s Day to hear His Word, and everyday for Individual and Family Communion Services.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. Through the eyes of faith we have seen the Lord Jesus as He comes to us in His Word and through His Sacraments to bring us the forgiveness of all of our sins. And, where there is forgiveness, there is life and salvation and peace. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.